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to deprive thousands of American citizens of equal rights in order to embarrass the Democratic Party in Congress?
Whatever the answer, the people of Missouri can be grateful that the full force of this State spoke in the Senate, through the votes of Senators Hennings and Symington, on the side of reason. The Illinois delegation was one of those that divided. Senator Douglas was a leader in the fight for the change. Senator Dirksen, who rode President Eisenhower's coattails last November, voted with the southern filibusterers.
We hope the facts behind this rollcall are told to newspaper readers all over the country.
[From the Des Moines Register of January 7, 1957)
THE FILIBUSTER SURVIVES The attempt to liberalize the Senate's filibuster rule, through adoption of new rules at the start of the session, has failed. But it was a glorious failure which points up the great gains that have been made by those who want legislation to guarantee equal rights to the 17 million American Negroes.
The vote on the question of adopting new rules was 55 to 38. The 38 Senators who favored adopting new rules want civil-rights legislation. But not all the 55 Senators who voted against adopting new rules are in favor of segregation of Negroes or of discrimination against them. They voted as they did for a variety of reasons.
Unquestionably a majority of the Senators would vote, if a straight-out test came, for civil-rights legislation. But they won't get the chance to do this. Southern Senators won't let such legislation come to a vote. They can block à vote by filibustering-by talk, talk, talk. The Senate could limit this talk, by invoking its present cloture rule. But under this rule, it takes the vote of twothirds of the Senators—64 out of 96 Members—to limit debate and end a filibuster. So 33 Senators can block action on civil-rights legislation.
The effort was made to change this cloture rule at the start of the session because it's almost impossible to do so later. The cloture rule cannot be invoked in any debate on changing the rules. So only a handful of Senators can filibuster to death an attempt to change the cloture rule.
Friday's vote was on whether the Senate could change its rules at the begin. ning of the session. If the vote had been favorable, then the Senate could have eased the cloture rule and civil-rights legislation could have been enacted. The great gain which has been made by those who feel that it is imperative to change the cloture rule is shown by comparing Friday's vote, 55 to 38, with the 70 to 21 vote on the same question in 1953. A switch of nine votes would have changed the outcome this year. We predict there will be many more switches than that in the next 2 years.
Some Senators who voted against changing the rules Friday did so because of: (1) their concept of the Senate as a continuing body for which the rules hold hold over from session to session; (2) their respect for tradition; or (3) a desire to support their party leaders (both Republican Leader Knowland and Democrat Leader Johnson opposed changing the rules).
We regret that Senator Bourke B. Hickenlooper, of Iowa, was one of those voting against changing the rules but recognize that this doesn't indicate any anti-civil-rights viewpoint. He voted that same way in 1953 and so did Senator Guy Gillette.
Senator Tom Martin of Iowa deserves praise for his vote in favor of changing the rules. We believe his vote reflects the sentiment of most Iowans.
The opinion which Vice President Richard Nixon gave with respect to Senate rules set a precedent which may speed victory for those advocating civil-rights legislation. His opinion seems to us to have been an enlightened and sensible one.
He held that the Senate is a continuing body under the Constitution. He also held that rules of the previous Congress remain in effect unless the new Congress decides otherwise. But he believes that the Constitution gives the Senate the right to decide otherwise to adopt new rules or change rules at the beginning of a session.
"The Senate should not be bound by a provision in those previous rules which denies the membership of the Senate the power to exercise its constitutional right to make its own rules," said Nixon's opinion.
The Senate didn't go along with Nixon. But it was a narrow escape for the South. The handwriting is on the wall. It won't be possible much longer
for a small minority, through rules and technicalities, to thwart the will of a yast majority of the people,
[From the Washington Post of January 5, 1957]
MR. Nixon's RULING
: Vice President Nixon has presented a very interesting opinion on the highly. controversial rule 22 that may ultimately break the logjam over the filibuster in the Senate. Insofar as rule 22 denies a majority in the Senate the right to adopt the rules under which it desires to proceed, the Vice President concluded, it is unconstitutional. This opinion will lend powerful support to the drive to upset the existing practice of unlimited debate on any rule change, even though the liberals trying to upset rule 22 lost their fight yesterday.
Mr. Nixon's ruling stems from the fact that the Constitution gives the Senate the unqualified right to change its rules. The Vice President contends, with convincing logic, that this is a continuing right. It cannot be denied to the Senate of 1957 because the Senate of 1884 adopted standing rules which have remained in effect since that date, with various amendments. Section 3 of the amendment adopted in 1949 says that the very restrained cloture procedure set up to limit debate on legislation shall not apply to any proposal to change the standing rules of the Senate.
The effect of this, the Vice President says, is to deny a majority of the Senate the right to make new rules. It is at this point that sharp controversy arises. To be sure, the existence of rule 22 makes it impossible for a majority to adopt new rules unless they wear out a filibuster. Perhaps that makes it unconstitutional, but it is interesting to note that the situation is the same as it would be if the Senate were meeting for the first time without any rules.
A more important point is that, if rule 22 is unconstitutional, only the Senate can remove this unconstitutionality. Mr. Nixon says that the old rules will remain in effect until the Senate changes them, "with the exception that the Senate shall not be bound by any provision of those previous rules which denies the membership * * * the power to exercise its constitutional right to make its own rules.” But the Senate itself has to be the judge of whether this right to make its own rules has been infringed, and if it should so decide the Senate would have to apply its own remedy. It is not to be supposed that any court will tell the Senate that it is acting unconstitutionally in an area which the Constitution leaves so completely to senatorial control.
As a practical matter, then the Senate will soon or late have to face the issue and break a filibuster on rules unless an amicable agreement can be reached. The Vice President has not resolved the controversy; he has merely added an additional argument against rule 22—that one part of it is unconstitutional. It remains for the Senate to agree upon a reasonable amendment of the rule such as limitation of debate on all business before the Senate (including amendment of the rules) by a two-thirds vote of those present, as this newspaper has previ. ously suggested. The alternative would be a prolonged fight which again might prove inconclusive.
[From the St. Louis Globe Democrat of January 7, 1957]
THE FILIBUSTER: Its DAYS NUMBERED The filibuster rule in the Senate is still hale and hearty, but it came much closer to getting the ax than anyone expected. Before the issue came to a vote, foes of the filibuster estimated they could count on the support of only 32 Senators-at most.
But when the ballots were counted, 38 Senators voted with them. Two other Senators who were absent announced they too would have voted against the filibuster if they had been on the floor of the Senate.
This time, the antifilibuster forces went down to defeat by a vote of 55 to 38. Four years ago, a similar proposal was defeated by a vote of 70 to 21.
This shows a marked change in the Senate's attitude toward the filibuster rule. The big shift has come on the part of GOP Senators.
In 1953, under the leadership of Senator Taft, only five Republican Senators supported the move to kill the filibuster. Forty-one, including Senator Taft, voted to keep it alive. This time, 17 GOP Senators voted against the filibuster.
This big GOP switch in favor of less restrictive Senate rules undoubtedly was influenced by the stand Vice President Nixon took. By virtue of his office, Nixon presides over the Senate.
At the start of the debate, he stated that, in his opinion, the foes of the filibuster were perfectly correct in arguing that the Senate can adopt new rules at any time-by a simple majority vote. And that could include a rule making it easy to choke off unlimited debate the filibuster.
This is the same line of reasoning that the leaders of the antifilibuster move, like Senator Clinton Anderson, New Mexico Democrat, have followed. Vice President Nixon took a clear-cut stand with them.
In Missouri, both Senator Hennings and Senator Symington voted with the antifilibuster forces. The Illinois delegation was split, with Senator Douglas, Democrat, against the filibuster. Senator Dirksen, Republican, voted in favor of tabling Senator Anderson's motion to proceed with the consideration of new rules.
Although the filibuster rule still stays on the Senate's book, this latest vote on the issue indicates that its days are numbered.
[From the Hartford Times of January 8, 1957]
WORTH ANOTHER TEST The effort in the Senate to curb filibustering has met with me rebuff but an. other effort will be made to change the rules which have given a minority dictatorial power. Advocates of a change, among whom Senator Bush has been a steadfast leader, lately joined by Senator Purtell, see an opening for a second test of strength in this session.
The recent vote was 55 to 38 against changing the rules. Senators Douglas, Humphrey, and Knowland have each introduced a compromise motion of like import. They propose that a two-thirds majority vote of 64 be required to end debate during the first 3 weeks that a bill is under discussion but that, thereafter, a simple majority of 49 could impose cloture.
The new plan was also expected to include an attempt to have Vice President Nixon declare a section of the present Senate debate rules unconstitutional. Mr. Nixon ruled on Friday that each Senate has the constitutional right to draft its own rules. Opponents of the change, however, argued successfully that the Senate is a continuing body whose rules carry over from session to session and can be changed only by a two-thirds vote.
At issue is a section of Senate rule XXII that prohibits the limitation of debate when the Senate is debating a motion to take up a bill. The rule further provides that once a bill has been taken up, a vote of 64 of the 96 Senators is necessary to impose the limitation.
This fight on the rules issue will determine whether civil-rights legislation has a chance in this session. Heretofore, southern Senators have been able to talk legislation to death by taking so much time that the Senate had to drop the bills and take up other matters. If a compromise or other tactic can remove this dictatorial power of a minority, the effort should be made.
[From the Des Moines Register of January 8, 1957]
THE FILIBUSTER AND MAJORITY RULE The second round of the filibuster fight is getting underway with a proposal by Republican Minority Leader William Knowland to make it easier to limit debate in the Senate.
Knowland's proposal is to require a vote of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting in order to cut off debate. The present rule requires agreement of two-thirds of the entire Senate, or 64 Members, before debate can be limited.
A Wall Street Journal editorial reprinted on this page today, which defends the present rule, notes that a two-thirds vote is commonly required in legislative proceedings. However, the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto, to impeach an officer, to propose a constitutional amendment, or to ratify a treaty are all twothirds of those present and voting. The preesnt two-thirds rule on limiting debate imposes a far tougher requirement.
The Knowland rule is essentially the same one that was in effect in the Senate from 1917 to 1949. There were 19 attempts to cut off debate during that time. Only 4 of the 19 attempts were successful. The Knowland rule obviously would still give the filibusterers a good deal of leeway.
Another possible approach is one backed by Senators Paul Douglas, Democrat, of Illinois, and Wayne Morse, Democrat, of Oregon. It would enable debate to be cut off by simple majority vote of the Senate, but only after a waiting period of 15 days, excluding Sundays and holidays, to assure full debate.
The Wall Street Journal sees a danger in majority rule, pointing out there are times when a minority speaks with greater wisdom. There is danger in majority rule, to be sure. It is present every time an election is held or a legislature meets.
But there are greater dangers in minority rule. Democracy assumes that by and large majorities will make the right decisions, or be capable of correcting the wrong decisions. The House of Representatives does not permit a willful minority to prevent majority sentiment from being expressed, nor does the British Parliament, which has effective means of dealing with filibusters.
Proponents of a meaningful antifilibuster rule do not want to prevent minority views from being expressed, nor to enforce silence. Some, like Senators Morse and Douglas, have themselves taken part in prolonged debate in which they represented the minority view. The issue is not whether the minority should be heard, but whether after it is heard, there should be opportunity for the ages and nays to be counted.
[From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of January 8, 1957]
FIGHTING THE FILIBUSTER
By a parliamentary end run the Senate has voted to retain the filibuster for another session, though there may still be some effort made to weaken it a little. However, the dispute between those who would stop the filibuster-which is an effort to prevent law-making by talk and other tactics of delay—and those who would continue it did produce a valuable opinion from the Chief Officer of the Senate, Vice President Nixon. The opinion establishes a favorable precedent for those who want to forbid a minority to defeat legislation desired by a majority.
The villain of the filibuster piece is Senate rule XXII, which sets almost impossible conditions for bringing debate to a close. Under this rule a determined filibuster cannot be shut off without the votes of 64 Senators. This means, for practical purposes, that civil-rights legislation can never get through the Senate because 22 Southern Senators plus 11 other Senators allied with them can frustrate the majority. And, it should be noted, a Senator who is absent, by design or debility, automatically strengthens the minority by 1 vote.
The arch villain of the filibuster piece is section 3 of rule XXII. This says that no limit of any kind can be imposed on debate when the Senate is considering a change in its rules. Thus, rule XXII, adopted in 1949, could not be revised so long as a handful of Senators-say, half a dozen-resolved to block the revision. If rule XXII puts civil-rights legislation in the coffin, section 3 nails, rivets, and welds the coffin shut.
It was on section 3 that Vice President Nixon was requested to give an opinion in the course of debate last week. He opined that the section is contrary to the Constitution, which states that each House of Congress “may determine the rules of its proceedings." Said the Vice President: “This constitutional right is lodged in the membership of the Senate and it may be exercised by a majority of the Senate at any time * * * the Senate should not be bound * * * by any rule which denies the membership of the Senate the power to exercise its constitutional right to make its own rules.”
The Senate as a whole is the ultimate judge of the constitutionality at issue. Mr. Nixon's opinion, however, has encouraged opponents of the filibuster and lends hope that one day, by a decided attack on section 3, the campaign against the filibuster may drive on to victory.
[From the New York Times of January 8, 1957]
FIGHTING THE FILIBUSTER New life to the movement to restore democracy with a small "d" to the Senate of the United States has been given by two unexpected developments in the fight
against the filibuster. It now appears that there may actually be a chance to curb this weapon, the very threat of which has paralyzed senatorial freedom of action for so many years.
One hopeful factor is the astonishing size of the vote last week against killing a proposal to consider changes in the Senate rules. No fewer than 38 Senators—18 more than in 1953, when a similar motion was defeated-opposed the move of the Democratic and Republican leadership to continue with the same old rules under which it is almost impossible to shut off a filibuster. If 2 absentees and Senator-elect Javits had been present, the opposition to the leadership would have numbered 41–22 Democrats and 19 Republicans. In other words, a switch of only 7 or 8 votes would have done the trick. This is too close a margin for the comfort of the reactionary southern Democratic, midwestern Republican coalition that has held sway in the Senate for so long. It spells the end of the rules protecting and nourishing the filibuster-if not at this session, then surely in the relatively near future.
The other new and encouraging factor is the opinion that Vice President Nixon gave from his chair as presiding officer of the Senate. In answer to a parlia'mentary inquiry, the Vice President held in a precedent-setting opinion that under the Constitution a majority of the Senate has the right to adopt new rules at any time. As we suggested on this page last month, the language of article I, section 54"Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings"-plainly means that each Senate has the right to adopt new rules or revise the old ones if it wants to.
If this is so, then what we called the built-in filibuster machine of rule XXII, forbidding any curtailment whatsoever of debate on a motion to consider changes in the rules, is invalid. That is the way the Vice President sees it, and we think he is right. Under the special arrangements cooked up by the majority leader last week, a test of this issue did not directly arise ; but it surely will when the question is debated again. The Vice President's opinion, while not necessarily binding, is of great importance in opening the way to a change in the rules, which can only mean a weakening of the heretofore unassailable bulwark of the filibuster.
[From the Minneapolis Morning Tribune of January 7, 1957)
NIXON VERSUS FILIBUSTER Vice President Nixon has greatly improved his standing among the liberals as a result of last week's unsuccessful fight to change the Senate rules.
The fight, in essence, was a fight against the filibuster and for civil-rights legislation. Its immediate target was rule XXII, which requires a two-third vote of the entire Senate to end debate. This rule has not only effectively blocked civil-rights legislation, it has been self-perpetuating in the sense that there is no way to shut off debate on any proposed change. · Last Friday Nixon, as Presiding Officer of the upper House, admitted that the Senate was a continuing body, since two-thirds of its Members hold over from one session to another. But he expressed the opinion that “the majority of the new existing membership, under the Constitution, have the power to determine the rules under which the Senate will proceed."
This opinion did not move the Senate to adopt new rules. But it gave new strength and heart to the move to curb the filibuster power. Nixon had dealt a heavy blow at the absurd notion that the Senate, because it was a continuing body, was not entitled to revise its own rules by majority vote. He had to put the weight of his influence and prestige on the side of civil-rights legislation. By doing so, he inevitably gained stature among Negro voters, many of whom had already deserted their traditional Democratic allegiance to vote Republican last November.
It is no secret that some of Nixon's enemies would have liked to see him emerge from Friday's test as an archconservative who had offended large groups of voters interested in civil rights. Instead, the Vice President entered the civil-rights arena more nearly resembling a knight in shining armor. This was not quite the case with Senator Knowland, Republican minority leader, who voted against the rules-changing motion. But even Knowland has promised that he will propose, and seek support for, a plan for relaxing rule XXII.
The tide of Senate opinion against this oppressive rule is rising fast, and it is a bipartisan tide. Both Senators Humphrey and Thye voted for a revision of the rules Friday and Nixon's opinion is likely to have far-reaching repercussions. The Senate will some day rise up and strike off the self-imposed shackles of the filibuster. That happy day, in fact, may be just around the corner.